how-much-protein-does-an-ectomorph-need

Muscle-Building Myth #3: High Protein Diets

Written by on June 6, 2012 and it's about , ,

(Article updated April 2014) You probably know that protein is a really important macronutrient for building muscle. In fact, my little sister probably knows that protein is important for building muscle. There is some truth to this – if you don’t eat enough protein your body won’t build muscle. This is a common problem for some absolute beginners, vegetarians and vegans – they eat too little protein and thus struggle to put on muscle.

But what about your regular gym dude? What about the guy that trains 6 times a week? What about a skinny ectomorph trying to pack on muscle? They all probably think they need a hell of a lot of protein.

… and eating a diet overly high in protein is a great way to limit the amount of muscle you build—especially as an ectomorph.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately into clinical studies conducted on muscle growth. Most of them are funded by supplement companies who pay their bills by selling protein powders, so these companies have a huge vested interest in proving that more protein = more muscles.

Oddly enough even the protein manufacturers haven’t been able to show that there’s a correlation between more protein and more muscle once the minimum required amount is met. In fact, so long as you get the minimum required amount of protein for building muscle, eating more protein on top of that has very little effect beyond the extra calories that you get from it. Time and time again studies have shown that you’d gain significantly more muscle by getting those calories from carbs instead. (study)

This is because when we consume an abundance of carbohydrates (and calories in general) protein oxidation goes down, allowing us to use that protein more efficiently to synthesize muscle. More carbs and more calories means we’re about to build more muscle out of less protein.

Some of the carbohydrates we eat are digested and then stored in our muscles in the form of glycogen, and it’s that muscle glycogen that entirely fuels our weightlifting workouts. (study, study) in the form of muscle glycogen. Since the glycogen in our muscles fuels our workouts, not consuming enough carbohydrates will make us fatigue far sooner, drastically reducing our workout performance. A crappy workout means less weight lifted, fewer muscle fibres stimulated … and less muscle built.

We do need to eat enough protein, but so much for needing 1-2g of protein per pound of bodyweight when trying to put on muscle.

So what’s the magic amount of protein for building muscle?

That varies, but for a classic ectomorph it’s around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day—and that’s already playing it safe. Beyond that amount it hasn’t been proven that more protein results in any more muscle growth whatsoever. (studystudystudy, study)

So let’s say you’re a classic ectomorph weighing in at lean 150 pounds and on a muscle-building diet of 3400 calories. If you get even just 20% of your calories from protein you’re eating 170 grams of protein. That’s all you need plus a bit extra—just incase. Keep in mind that there’s no harm to your health in eating loads of protein, just that the muscle-building benefit comes from the extra calories, not the fact that you’re consuming protein. (study, study, study)

Even those extra calories aren’t packing quite the caloric punch that another macronutrient would, because processing protein results in a lot of energy being “wasted” as heat. If you’ve ever heard that high protein diets increase your metabolism then you know what I mean. Your body expends a certain amount of energy digesting and processing nutrients, and this is dubbed the thermic effect of food (TEF). If you eat 800 calories of protein you’ll lose about a quarter of them to heat. With carbs or fat you’d lose less than a tenth.  This is great under some circumstances, such as weight loss, but when building muscle the high TEF that protein has means that you’d need to eat way more calories. For skinny guys with small appetites this can make bulking up a lot harder.

Add in the fact that protein is incredibly satiating—it reduces your appetite—and all of a sudden you have poor ectomorphs trying to force feed themselves way past the point of fullness way more often than they want to eat. Carbohydrates often have the inverse effect, and even may result in something called a “rebound effect”, where you notice that your appetite increases again shortly after eating. For chubsters this is often the express highway to fatville, but for us ectomorphs this is an incredible tool for loving a calorie-heavy diet that will have us building loads of muscle.

Ectomorphs usually try and simultaneously increase their healthy intake of nutrition while accidentally doing mainstream appetite control tricks for chubby people.

Aw #$%^!

Where you should be getting the bulk of your calories

For most ectomorphs eating enough to gain weight, 20% of your calories coming from protein works out to a little over a gram of protein per pound bodyweight – and that’s more than enough protein while still leaving plenty of room for other nutrients.

If you count grams, something like 1 gram of carbs per pound bodyweight would be the minimum you’d want to consume (and that’s a good minimum when cutting), but optimum performance and muscle-building usually comes at 3 grams per pound, which is more like 50% of your daily calories.

This may sound counterintuitive, considering that muscle can only be synthesized out of protein, and that carbs are currently infamous for being the fat-causing macronutrient … but they actually have a ton of anabolic effects and really don’t have much risk of being converted into fat if you consume them intelligently.

B-b-but what about post-workout?

That’s the exception, right? Okay so we do advise getting in some good protein after working out, and studies pretty unanimously support the benefits of that (study, study), but a huge part of the benefit actually comes from the calories/carbohydrates that we recommend having alongside it, and not just the protein. (study) In fact, you can build tons of extra muscle just by having carb-filled post-workout shakes without any protein in them at all, especially if they have creatine in them. (study)

(If you want our evidence-based recommendations for post-workout nutrition check this post out.)

Why doesn’t everybody know this then?

A lot of the most popular diets these days, like the Paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, low carb diets, etc., are high protein, high fat … and low carb. That’s not wrong, per say (although they do sometimes rather unfairly vilify carbs), just not ideal for guys like us. Different body types, lifestyles, goals and training plans produce radically differing nutritional demands:

  1. Naturally chubby guys often respond better to a diet higher in protein and fats, and these guys make up the majority. As ectomorphs we’re thyroid dominant (hormone talk), meaning that we’re better at processing carbohydrates. It’s unlikely that we’ll convert them to fat, and with a proper workout plan in place we’ll use those carb calories to build wicked amounts of muscle.
  2. Most guys aren’t trying to gain weight, let alone rapidly gain weight. If you were asking me how to maintain your muscle mass or lose fat my nutrition advice would be different—but we’re trying to build muscle. In order to do this we need to intelligently stimulate our muscles and increase our carb intake. Those carbs will help us ectomorphs build lean muscle.
  3. Sedentary lifestyles reduce the demand that we have for carbohydrates. Our bodies use carbohydrates as an energy source … so if you don’t expend much energy you don’t need many carbohydrates. Most guys drive to work, sit in an office and daydream about weighing less. Those guys don’t need carbs. Since overweight people living that lifestyle are so prevalent, this is great nutrition advice for the masses. For better or worse, we aren’t the masses. As ectomorphs though we have higher metabolisms and naturally expend a lot of energy (often as heat). Add in a weightlifting plan and our energy requirements shoot up even further.
  4. Strength training and carbs are a match made in heaven. There’s a window surrounding our workouts where carbs are extremely beneficial. Even beefy guys will often benefit from consuming plenty of carbs within the two hours following their workouts if they’re looking to maximize muscle gain while minimizing fat gain. As ectomorphs this window doubles. If our goal is rapid muscle gain we should even be eating plenty of carbs up to 48 hours after our last workout (within reason). If you work out three times per week, as we do, well then that’s pretty much always.

Does this mean too much protein is bad for us?

No no. It may not be the optimal way to build muscle, but it won’t strain your kidneys, stress your liver out, make you ugly, lower your sperm count, or any of the other anti-protein myths you may have heard. (study) Protein is a perfectly fine macronutrient and you can digest over 100 grams of it from a single meal without a hitch. You just don’t need ludicrous amounts of it when eating at a calorie surplus and trying to build optimal amounts of lean muscle as an ectomorph. We can do better.

Conclusion

Now this doesn’t mean that protein isn’t important, but rather that most of your calories should probably come from carbohydrates. It’s rare to find a skinny guy (or even a skinny-fat guy) that that won’t hold true for. If you’re eating a calorie surplus large enough to build muscle and even 20% of your calories are coming from protein you’ll be just fine. That will give you more than the required amount of protein, and any extra is muscle gravy.

Where should most of your calories come from? Everyone is a little different, which is why it can be really helpful to track your results and adjust accordingly … but likely you’ll want to be getting 50% or so of those calories from dense and healthy carbohydrates, like potatoes, yams, fruits, grains, rice, dairy, legumes, etc. And maybe 30% from nutritious fats, like olive oil, butter, avocados, fish oil, nuts, coconut oil, eggs, cheese, etc.

As you can imagine this opens the door to eating a pretty delicious, nutritious and well balanced diet even when trying to accomplish rapid  and consistent change. And therein lies your best chance at building muscle as a thin / skinny / skinny-fat / ectomorph guy: eat well, lift heavy, be smart, love life.

Adequate protein is enough:
Attempting to go from Skinny Ectomorph to Strong and Muscular in a Matter of Months … without going crazy high protein

…but don’t give your girlfriend this advice unless she’s also a strength training ectomorph (which would be awesome).

Carbs might make her phat ;)

***

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So, what'd you think? 47 responses below.

Tony

Hey guys…. or is it dude… I don’t how many of you there are. Anyhow, I dig the site. I have one qualm with this post, however and that’s the, excess amounts of protein have no adverse affects on health. The China Study showed the exact opposite, that excess animal protein is the number one cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. It’s a no bullshit 27 year-long fo’real study. Check out the book. It’s worth the read.
…And keep up the stellar work ;)

Shane Duquette

Hey Tony,

Thanks for the kind words man! We’re three guys, although just I (Shane) wrote this post.

That’s a really really interesting topic and it would take me ages to dig into it with any kind of thoroughness. Thanks for bringing it up though, and this is a great place to at least expand on it a tiny bit. Here are some pieces of food for thought:

A study on the adverse affects of animal protein (or the lack thereof). (Study)

The China study’s author, Dr. Campbell, has strong ties to PETA. Is it possible for an animal rights activist to be unbiased when it comes to animals products and health … of course. Should we assume that’s the case? Definitely not. Many think the China Study is a great and information book that isn’t at all biased. Many others think that The China Study is heavily weighted to favor his moral convictions. I haven’t read the entire thing myself, so I can’t really weigh in there.

There are potentially some factually false statements and misquoted pieces of information though. Many researchers believe that the most, if not all, of the information in the book has been refuted by studies that are conducted in a manner that are far more scientifically reliable (randomized controlled trials > epidemiology and correlation). For example: “eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy.” That simply isn’t true. Consuming dietary cholesterol hasn’t been known to cause any adverse effects.

He also left out the information that contradicted his points! He found that “animal protein” was cancer causing … but in the actual China Study that he’s saying showed that correlation … carbohydrates were about 7x more likely to cause cancer (the staple of a no-animal diet). The fact that he didn’t mention that may point to a bias.

Now, I’m not “pro animal protein” or “anti-vegan” or anything. I actually have a ton of respect for vegans and their moral convictions. I think it’s really noble, and all the vegans I know are really kind and incredible people. We’re pro health, pro research and pro results first and foremost though, so while we respect people’s ethical choices we aren’t biased when it comes to finding health implications there. We’re always on guard for things that indicate that things may or may not be good for us or our goals.

We love it when you guys link us to interesting books and studies to help expand our perspective :)

Hope you find that interesting / get some value in it!

My best,
Shane

Tree

I’ve just got off a 30 day vegan diet trial, and this is what I also discovered. I’m also kinda ectomorph (no one is really one type right?) and whilst I didn’t work out that month, I barely lost any muscle. When I started training again, I was lifting almost the same amount of weight. I definitely lost some weight, most of it was fat because I can see more of my abs now :D

In addition my buddy also confirmed that he didn’t need as much protein as he thought even tho he is more endo. But he also trained really hard and that’s where I think training is underrated and eating right is overrated.

Eating less meat is also better for the planet I think since we wouldn’t have to farm animals so much, necessitating the need for dirty and unethical factory farms. That being said I do love my meat but maybe we all should cut back to a few times a week and preferably from free range animals.

Ultimately, as you said, it really depends on the individual. Everyone is different so everyone has different needs. Some people smoke and live really long. Not saying smoking’s good but it’s all in DNA expression. The trick is finding what works best but if you are a conscious human being you will wake up and put in the effort.

Thanks for the article!

Shane Duquette

Thanks for the kind words Tree!

Right on man, that’s a really cool experiment! I’ve tried experimenting with vegetarian diets, but I’ve never gone so far as trying to go vegan. How did you find it (muscle aside)?

Tree

Whoops forgot to follow up on this! I’ll try to remember what it was like…

During the first week I was craving the meat a little but eventually substituted it for more starchy carbs but I never neglected veggies. Veggies just never made me full and I got hungry fairly quick if I ate only veggies. Fortunately I’m asian so I cook stir fry pretty well and fried rice + veggies became my staple in week 2.5-4 although I should’ve realised it earlier!! Prior to vegan diet I tried the Paleo diet so my BF% was actually decent already (~15%?) and I didn’t gain any weight, in fact I lost some fat and probably a negligible amount of muscle since I wasn’t training.

Normally my body doesn’t react to pasta very well (bloated afterwards) but this time it was fine. I’m not gluten intolerant anyways I think (but I am happily lactose intolerant).

What I definately found about the vegan diet was that tissue recovery was a little slower than a diet with more protein. When I had a small skin tear I would recover faster than when I was on the vegan diet.

Anyways started training again (which is why I’m lurking here haha) to get in shape for summer (in Australia) for ze ladies….

P.S Soy yogurt SUCKS!!

Shane Duquette

Ahaha soy yogurt sounds pretty sucky!

Vegan protein’s pretty easy these days though. SunWarrior makes some pretty good stuff, and you can even get vegan creatine, BCAAs, b12 and DHA. All the things you’re missing from meat and dairy are pretty easy to come by :)

tehftw

Which carbs are the best? I have problems eating anything more than medium amounts unless it’s sugar :\

Shane Duquette

Most whole food carbs are pretty good (potatoes, yams, quinoa, fruits, beans, lentils, dairy, whole gains, oats, etc). All of those are packed full of vitamins and minerals and excellent at building up tons of lean muscle.

The heavily processed stuff, like stuff made out of refined flour (pasta, pastries, etc), isn’t very nutritious, since pretty much all of the vitamins and minerals are processed out of it. The calories can help though, and added into an already very nutritious diet it can certainly do the trick!

So try to get most of your carbs from the produce aisle.

Does that help?

Blair

I have a question regarding the post workout shake. I have read contradicting information about the benefits of carbs in a post workout shake in these two articles. The point referring to insulin counteracting growth hormone levels is an interesting one that I thought you might be able to address, as I am quite confused about which method to go with. Thanks

Shane Duquette

Hey Blair, that’s really interesting! The main growth hormone spurts you get are elsewhere anyway (such as when sleeping, fasting, etc) so I don’t know why they’re even mentioning post-workout growth hormone spurts. I wouldn’t worry about optimizing your post-workout growth hormone at all. Your growth hormone levels will be stellar overall just from training heavy, eating well and getting plenty of quality rest anyway.

As for insulin, that DOES have a big effect on how much muscle you can build, and it very is something you’d want to be optimizing surrounding your workout!

Another thing those articles mention is that they’re tailored for people following low-carb diets … which isn’t at all what we’re doing, or likely should be doing (although this depends on your body type and goals).

Massive amounts of post-workout carbs certainly aren’t for everyone, but even for most chubby dudes that’s when they’d want to be consuming their carbohydrates. It’s not the end of the world if they don’t though. Nutrient timing and carb cycling are just bits of the puzzle, and not nearly as significant as the quantity and quality of what you eat overall!

Does that help?

Jason

Hey Shane,

Just stumbled across this site a few days ago and being a tall ecto-mesomorph (or something like that) I find the concept of your site very intriguing. I’m at the point tight now of wanting to add 20 lbs or so of muscle (I’m a soft 185 and I’d like to be a lean 205-210, you know…beastly :). I’ve had some luck in the past with high amounts of protein, but my gains certainly didn’t happen in the time frames or the amounts you guys are talking about which makes this post interesting to me. Here’s my question though:

I’m a type 1 diabetic, so consuming large amounts of carbohydrates in a single sitting becomes somewhat problematic. Any more than 60 carbs or so at one time not only makes me not feel well, but then makes it take a long time (several hours) before it’s safe/healthy for me to eat carbs again thus further limiting my carb intake for the day.

Yes, I realize I should talk to my doctor before making changes to my diet, blah blah, but one dude to another, do you have any thoughts on my dilemma, or is this the reason I’ve never gotten truly beastly? I liked to blame my diabetes as the reason for being skinny growing up and since come to believe that wasn’t the case, but perhaps I wasn’t too far off the mark?

Thanks,

-J

Shane Duquette

Hey Jason, glad to hear you’re interesting in our program.

Everyone is a little different and having a medical issue certainly warrants adjusting the diet to suit your particular needs. You’re totally right, in that you should consult your doctor before making changes to your diet. I’m not familiar with diabetes and I’d hate to give you advice that would have the potential of giving you problems.

The good news is though that you don’t NEED to consume massive amounts of carbohydrates in a single sitting. We’re talking about what’s optimal for your typical ectomorph, but hell that’s not the ONLY way to get results. Given that you aren’t a “totally typical ectomorph” it just means you need to find a diet that’s optimal for you. That’s not a problem though, and there’s nothing bad about eating a higher protein diet either. Eating more protein is a totally valid way to increase the amount of calories you’re eating :)

I think you’d do just fine! I definitely wouldn’t let something like this discourage you from accomplishing your goals.

My best,
Shane

Shane Duquette

Oh—and if you do decide to join us we’d love to have you man! We aren’t really equipped to help you deal with being diabetic, but we’re 100% willing to work within the parameters of what your doctor advises and help you figure out a personal approach for you that has you building beastly muscle :)

Erin

So would any of this advice change is one is a skinny/ectomorph weight-lifting chick?

Shane Duquette

Some think that women respond better to diets with a few fewer carbs and a higher protein intake, so perhaps, yeah. Not by much though. Women and men both respond really favourably to lifting heavy and eating a wholesome balanced diet.

I’d go by the good old rule of thumb: 1g of protein per pound body weight each day.

(If you aren’t trying to accomplish a rapid/dramatic change you might be able to get away with less, and you may find that your results improve if you eat a bit more, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.)

Also, check out our program-in-progress for weight-lifting / strength training women looking to build muscle. We’ll have a blog up soon :)

http://www.bonytobombshell.com

Erin

Can’t wait for the female version of your plan then! As a frame of reference, I’ve managed to gain 20# in a year (still in the same clothes size though- go muscle!) by eating and lifting like a dude but lately have kind of stalled and my lifts are starting to plateau. It’s actually all abt carbs for me to gain – when I accidentally drop weight I go back to my logs and have always missed my carb goals.

Shane Duquette

20 pounds?! That’s amazing Erin, congrats!
Yeah, carbs really treat all of us ectomorphs — male or female — rather well. Pretty lucky, as they’re the cheapest macronutrient out there, pretty quick to prepare and they taste pretty great!

We’ll give you a shout when Bony to Bombshell launches :)

thomas

hi Shane,

I really love all the work of the team. From the web design to the well documented articles, the humor sense,… great.
Should apply to your programm soon but i have a other one in progress too!
I am a (french ) ectomorph, i have improved my posture and my strengh during othe last year.

I would like to have your thoughts on the paleo side of “ectomorphism”. I am really trying to make my diet close to ancetor one.
How do you thing ectomorph were eating before becoming farmers? Did they eat so much carbs? Where they eating more fats? where they in ketosis?
What is your point of view regarding ketosis? And about low carb athletes and their diet like developed in “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance from Volek?

yeah, i know ectomorph are nerds :-)

Shane Duquette

Haha I’m a half-French ectomorph! I’ve got the long French nose and everything.

Paleo eating doesn’t make all that much sense physiologically—there’s no need to eat like a caveman to be healthy. The Paleo diet, like most other diets, also does some great things though: avoiding processed food, eating plenty of veggies, getting in lots of protein, etc. It’s more restrictive than it needs to be (most people handle grains fantastically well) but it also works, so if you’re a paleo man and respond well to the diet then no worries—just rock it, ectomorph or not. Just eat plenty of paleo-friendly carbs, like potatoes!

More on that here:
http://bonytobeastly.com/superhuman-ectomorph-nutrition/

I wouldn’t worry about how pre-farming ectomorphs ate. They had a lifespan of what, 30? And their bodies probably weren’t all that rockin’. Foragers kind of just ate whatever they could, and malnutrition/starvation were pretty common ways to die. They weren’t eating balanced diets or breaking any athletic records or anything.

One lesson to be learned though is that they weren’t eating processed foods! That’ll certainly help ya.

Ketosis is okay … but again not necessary. Losing fat by entering into ketosis is EQUALLY as effective as losing fat by not entering into ketosis, so it’s really a matter of preference. Ketosis is rather tricky though and it can make you smell a little funky. Personally I don’t ever plan to try it. I hear some people have a strong preference for it though, as it’s good at eliminating cravings.

Some guys respond wonderfully to low carb diets. (Usually naturally chubby guys who gain fat very very easily.) Our body type tends not to place us in that category of people … but you could give it a try!

Does that help at all? If you have more questions (or arguments/challenges!) I’d love to follow up on some of the stuff I’m saying :)

Shane Duquette

And props for improving your strength and posture! If you’re getting good results be sure to stick with what you’ve found works for you :)

thomas

Hi Shane,

thanks for replying! Moreover you are really funny. Half-french sense of humor? :-)

You answer is useful because it is balanced. You know how we can become stubborn when coming to diet!
I am not sure the lifespan for ancestor was 30 years old but i wasn’t there to check.

What drives me to consider paleo nutrition is that safe carbs and moderate/ low carbs intake help to prevent and reduce migrain (i was trying to find info to help family) ,. It seems that we can treat epilepsy, depression strokes and other stuff with ketosis. Interesting stuff:

http://www.epilepsymatters.com/english/treketogenic.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898565/

http://m.jems.com/article/patient-care/identifying-diseases-mimic-str

That’s why i keep my intake of carbs moderate (150 – 200 g day) and try to find what is best suited for us, first as human then as ectomorph. I keep on searching and improving.

En plein dans le mille, you are right i have to stick to want works to correct my posture. Those correctives excercices are sometimes boring but are effectives!

:-D

(you have to say what rock band you play in according to your picture)

Shane Duquette

Right on man :)

Ah I love writing music but I’m still very terrible at it! I’ve only recently started getting into writing music, playing guitar and singing.

http://www.unlovableband.com is where you can find out more about what we’re up to musically though :)

Jessalyn

Hello Shane(and guys),
I’ve never sought out help on a blog before but it’s worth a shot…I’m a 25 year old 5 foot 90lbs (soaking wet) girl. I am an avid crossfitter 5 times a week. I cannot put on weight. I’m really bothered by the fact I’m referred to as a “string bean” and scrawny. I think I’m pretty toned I just want to gain weight/muscle. My diet is not great I have a hard time eating the amount I should ie. I can’t eat when I’m not hungry or feel full. What should my diet look like? How much protein should I get in one day? Does your article apply to women? Please help! Thank so much :)

Shane Duquette

Hey Jessalyn, men and women are somewhat different when it comes to strength training and nutrition. Our hormones are different after all, so we digest food and respond to weight training in different ways.

The differences are relatively minor – we have more in common than not … but this program is totally 100% optimized for men. I would still read it, but we’re going to have a blog specifically for women looking to strength train and build curvaceous muscle soon.

When it comes to carbs and protein, your estrogen changes the game. Us men have bigger bulkier muscles full of muscle glycogen, aka sugar that we store inside our muscles and use as fuel to lift heavy things. When we train we use up that muscle glycogen and then when we eat plenty of carbs afterwards we load those muscles back up. On higher carb diets our muscles are big and full and we feel great.

Women are a little different. You have a higher bodyfat percentage, smaller lither muscles, and you use more fat to fuel your lifts. Your muscles don’t load up glycogen the same as ours do, which is one reason why you hardly ever see women with “bulky” muscles, like you often see in men. That also means that you don’t need to eat as many carbohydrates as we do.

Women usually do really well with more “balanced” diets. Something like 30% protein, 35% carbs, 35% fats. That depends on the woman of course, and ectomorphic women will tend towards more carbs, but it’s common for women to need less of ‘em than men.

If you aren’t gaining weight what you need more of is CALORIES. To keep things simple I would shoot for 1g protein / pound bodyweight / day … and then eat plenty of whole food carbs and fats. Fruits, veggies, potatoes, rice, avocados, olive oil, nuts, etc.

Also, be careful with Crossfit! Crossfit tends to work best with very athletic, very sturdy and very experienced lifters with great posture and alignment and great coaches. Us ectomorphs often struggle with it, as we have postural issues and longer and more fragile bone structures by default. We often wind up injured or overtrained. Of course that may not apply to you, and Crossfit is great for a great many people – just sayin’ be smart! ;)

Hope that helps, and feel free to ask follow-up questions!

My best,
Shane

p.s. check out our sister program-in-progress:
http://www.bonytobombshell.com

Shane Duquette

Oh, as for learning to eat more, here’s a simple tip: try liquid calories.

Smoothies are great. Homemade eggnog is an amazing weight gainer. Here’s my take on it: Take 3 raw egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla, a pinch of nutmeg and cloves, a dash of cinnamon, 1.5 cups of whole milk, half a cup of greek yogurt, 2-3 tablespoons of raw honey, and a scoop of plain whey protein.

Ana

As a female ecto, who has been lifting weights for a couple of years, I can tell you that in my case an excessive consumption of carbs leads more to fat gain rather than to muscle gain. I found a solution that works for me: fat and carbs cycling. On a day when I lift heavy, I eat plenty of carbs, low fat, and plenty of protein. On my day off, I eat a lot of healthy fats, low carbs, and plenty of protein. I’ve built a good upper body for a female of my frame, but growing legs is still a challenge. I noticed that you, guys, built bigger upper bodies than legs. Is that a personal preference, or do you find it challenging to grow legs as well?

Shane Duquette

Hey Ana,

What you’re describing is carb cycling, and we actually recommend exactly that in our program! It’s pretty simple and enjoyable once you get into the swing of things, and it yields pretty sweet results.

As for carbs leading to fat gain … well women and men are physiologically a little different, so that totally makes sense. This article is written with ectomorph men and only ectomorph men in mind. If we were targeting it at women our instructions would be a little different, as you’re right, women (usually) respond best to a diet that’s actually a fair bit different.

As for building up upper bodies … again that’s sort of a man/woman thing. Men naturally have long strong spines and develop upper body strength well. We tend to have smaller and weaker hips, which take a bit more work. Our program does emphasize more hypertrophy (aka size) up top, as men tend to prefer it (myself included), although we’re all about real world functional strength from head to foot, so a big emphasis is on building a strong physique everywhere.

Women tend to be the opposite. Women have shorter and less stable spines and upper bodies that are less conducive to muscle growth. Where they really tend to shine is in their hips and lower bodies. One reason is that women have wider and more stable hips with better mobility. They’re structurally better in the hips. Another is that there seems to be huuuge potential for muscle and strength in your glutes. It’s very very common to find wickedly strong women who can out glute bridge / hip thrust a man, and women can usually squat and deadlift much deeper and with much better form than men can.

You may find our women’s strength training / muscle building program interesting!
http://bonytobombshell.com/

If you’re looking to build up a stronger and more curvaceous lower body … this would be the absolute best way to do it :)
(Check it out and shoot us an email if it interests you. Details at the bottom of the linked page.)

I hope that helps!

My best,
Shane

Wan

I’ve heard about it elsewhere (cannot remember) by anti-protein folks (sort of). I’m pretty sure you had studied seriously about this. Could you list out the articles (of medical journal of course) or books you’ve read about this topic? Besides of the two you had given. I’m collecting evidences. :D

(I’m a newbie student of Dietetics, but my college mates and seniors hold to this myth strongly.. And they’re surely not ectomorph.)

Shane Duquette

What evidence are you looking for in particular? That protein taken beyond a certain threshold, say 0.8 or 1g protein / pound bodyweight is no longer helpful when it comes to building muscle?

Try:

Tarnopolsky MA, Atkinson SA, MacDougall JD, Chesley A, Phillips S, Schwarcz HP. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. J Appl Physiol. 1992 Nov;73(5):1986-95. [PubMed]

Lemon PW, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA. Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. J Appl Physiol. 1992 Aug;73(2):767-75. [PubMed]

Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Falvo MJ, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of protein intake on strength, body composition and endocrine changes in strength/power athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006 Dec 13;3:12-8. [PubMed]

Walberg JL, Leidy MK, Sturgill DJ, Hinkle DE, Ritchey SJ, Sebolt DR: Macronutrient content of a hypoenergy diet affects nitrogen retention and muscle function in weight lifters. Int J Sports Med 1988, 09:261,266. [PubMed]

Rodriguez NR, DiMarco NM, Langley S; American Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):509-27. [PubMed]

Campbell B, Kreider RB, Ziegenfuss T, La Bounty P, Roberts M, Burke D, Landis J, Lopez H, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Sep 26;4:8. [PubMed]

Lemon PW. Protein and amino acid needs of the strength athlete. Int J Sport Nutr. 1991 Jun;1(2):127-45. [PubMed]

Wilson J, Wilson GJ. Contemporary issues in protein requirements and consumption for resistance trained athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006 Jun 5;3:7-27. [PubMed]

Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. tary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. [PubMed]

Willoughby DS, Stout JR, Wilborn CD. ects of resistance training and protein plus amino acid supplementation on muscle anabolism, mass, and strength. Amino Acids. 2007;32(4):467-77. [PubMed]

Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Feb;42(2):326-37. [PubMed]

Pasiakos SM, Cao JJ, Margolis LM, Sauter ER, Whigham LD, McClung JP, Rood JC, Carbone JW, Combs GF Jr, Young AJ. ffects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. FASEB J. 2013 Sep;27(9):3837-47. [PubMed]

There are studies supporting both sides of the fence there, and it goes to show that given different circumstances there are different ideal intakes of protein. I would say the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion we drew, but you should definitely give ‘em a read and see what you think!

(Big thanks to Alan Aragon, who covered this in-depth in his latest research review.)

Hope that helps!

Matt UK

Hey guys, I just wanted to say thanks for pushing the ‘Endo’ cause!! I am 34yrs old and have always been skinny and tall. I went to the gym for a bit about 6yrs ago and saw some gains but quickly got bored of the routine and protein shakes (plus I am lazy by nature).

However, I am now 3 months in to the gym again and I have also given up the smokes. I have gone from 160pounds to 178pounds in that period. Looking back at old photos is depressing and satisfying at the same time.

Anyway I just want to say that your research is really interesting so thanks for taking the time to do it. I will defo try a few things such as increasing carbs rather than protein (my mrs. will thank you for that if you smell my drift…)

Lastly, for any depressed Endo out there reading this, there is hope!! I have thrown away so many clothes that don’t fit and it’s great. Eating and training is the key but the gains I have seen are literally from 3.5 hours per week at the gym split over 3 days…Easy right!!

Thanks, Matt from England

Shane Duquette

Hey Matt, thanks for the kind words man. We appreciate it.

We’re pushing the ECTOmorph cause! Endomorphs are cool too ‘n all … but it sounds like you’re all ecto.

Congrats on giving up smoking and gaining some weight! That’s awesome man! You must be thrilled! :D

Stay in touch man! We’ll be posting a bunch of new articles over the next few weeks so be sure to sign up for the newsletter!

Gary

Very Good article, It’s nice to know we as ectomorphs dont’ need to much protein, bodybuilding websites always hammer the importance of 1 gram per pound a day. And lots of fish oil. which smells bad.

I just want to ask if I can train if I have cough and colds or when feeling sick? I’ve been sick for a week but I want to force my body to train. Is it okay or do I need to rest before starting again.

Also, whats the optimum time frame for training, some say Training should always be less than 1 hour MAX, If been training almost 2 hours 3 times a week, split (Monday – Legs/ Wend – Chest/ Fri – Back and arms) to failure and I can see some results, 12 pounds gained in 10 weeks. The problem is I feel my body can’t recuperate fast and I got some viral respiratory infection (very painful throat and running nose) for 2 weeks. that I cant train.

Do you think I should change to Full body and reduce my training time.

Thank You!

Shane Duquette

Thanks Gary, glad you liked it!

Haha nothing wrong with one gram of protein per day. It’s slight overkill, yes, but it gives a nice little buffer, there’s no harm in extra protein, some guys do better with macronutrient breakdowns with more protein in them, and 1 gram of protein per pound bodyweight is just so easy to remember! Plus, it’s not everyone who’s an ectomorph in desperate need of carbs ;)

Should you switch from a bodybuilder split to full body workouts? Probably. I’d recommend it, certainly.

Two hour weightlifting sessions are pretty long. Ours are about half that length, and we hit every major muscle group each time. You’re doing a very different program though, and it looks like it’s geared more at isolating muscle groups, which tends to require longer workouts. How long a workout should be really depends on the program you’re following, your experience level, how strong you are, etc.

If you’re noticing you aren’t recovering though you should definitely cut down on the training. You’ll grow best if you prioritize recovering from your workouts – that’s when your muscles grow! Sounds like you’re experiencing the symptoms of overtraining.

Should you train when sick? Probably not. If you’ve got mild sniffles, maybe, but it sounds like you’ve got something a little more severe than that. Again, time to emphasize recovery.

Good luck man!

Gary

Thanks man!, I appreciate it.

I believe in what you said, it’s overkill, but I also have some nudge that bodybuilding “experts” say those things in order to encourage us to buy supplements, I mean the business side of things. I’m thinking 1 gram a day for a 160 lbs dude means almost six scoops of Optimum Nutrition Whey everyday if its 24 grams per scoop, my tub won’t last for a month If I follow the 1 gram advice.

but if it’s really necessary to consume that huge amount of protein, I’m a bit worried that I’m not getting the daily RDA.
I’m just a student, an ectomorph aspiring to be big, just lifting at school gym for free. I don’t have a lot of funds to buy supplements. I save some money to buy Optimum Whey, but it’s good for only a month and I don’t think I can maintain the additional monthly expense for a very long time.

That’s why I overcompensate the lack of supplements by training hard. 2 hours to failure three times a week Split. And I’m glad I saw some “little” gains in 10 weeks. But my immune system suffered, like you have said it could be overtraining. That’s why I might stop for a week or two to give my body some time to heal.

Do you think it’s good to overcompensate on the training if I can’t fully get all my protein everyday. Or can I just consume a lot of Carbohydrates and Calories but not to much too much Whey Protein?

Secondly, can I just eat chicken, fish and Eggs if I can’t afford expensive supplements like Optimum Whey?.
How much do you think is the best requirements or may I say serving.pieces of eggs a day for a guy who is 5″11″/ 163 lbs/ 32 inch waist? :)

Shane Duquette

If you’re eating in a caloric surplus you’ll probably find that you hit your protein goals pretty easily with whole foods (unless you’re a vegan or some such, in which case powders can be very helpful).

Even just a couple pb&j sandwiches will often have something like 40 grams of protein in them, between the grains and the peanut butter. A pint of milk will have around 18 grams of protein. A hearty bowl of stew or chili will often rack up 50+ grams of protein.

It all adds up pretty quickly.

Of course you can get your protein from chicken, fish and eggs (and dairy, legumes, nuts, grains, etc)! Plus, you’d get bonus points for all the micronutrients in them.

Whey is probably the cheapest type of protein out there though. It isn’t really an added cost, since it replaces chicken breasts and it’s cheaper than chicken breasts, you know? No need for it though by any means.

If you’re not getting in enough protein and/or calories you actually might want to tone your workouts back, not up! You’d probably want to go a little easier on yourself in order to make it easier for your body to recover! The whole point of protein is that it allows your body to repair and build muscle after all, so if you’re not getting much protein you’ll probably want to damage your muscles less and take a slower pace with your training so you can properly recover (aka build up bigger and badder muscles between workouts).

From a muscle-building standpoint I’d say the right number of eggs is the number that gives you the nutrients you need (calories, protein, fats, etc). You’ll probably want to stay away from eating extreme amounts, as a balanced and varied diet is best, but if you’re really looking to push the upper limits – eggs are pretty delicious after all – maybe ask your doctor? Different people respond to these things differently and I’d hate to give ya bad advice!

Good luck man, I hope that helps!

Gary

Nice!..I did not thought about that. Less Protein means less raw materials for repair = Cut back in training volume instead of going to the max. Thank you for that enlightening advice. It really helps man. Keep up the good work and more power, your helping many ectomorphs just like me.:)

Ellen

I’ve been reading through the posts every day a little so it might be that you’ve answered this one already but:

Does microwaving your food really destroys the good stuff? I’ve been googling it quickly but most studies are either not legit, or I doubt them because they’re sponsored by companies that make microwave meals,… There’s this huge lobby of people swearing by biologic food, and that would gladly pick up a pitchfork to not-so-friendly coax you into dropping the microwave. Also, there should be a difference between actually cooking something in the microwave, and just reheating it, no?

Will

I have never met someone as skinny as me. I am 19 years old, 6’1, and I weigh 120 lbs with a 28-29″ waist. I don’t want to be “huge” but I’m tired of being so bony and lanky. It’s hard to find clothes that fit and I feel like people stare at me a lot which gets old. Would it be possible for me to look “normal” or am I stuck like this forever? What diet should I maintain in order to get bigger while going to the gym 3-4 times a week in 1 hour intervals? Also, do you suggest free weights over machines for more rapid bulking? I want to be comfortable with my body around April or May, ideally.

Thanks!

Shane Duquette

He Will, that doesn’t sound so different from my starting weight of 130 at 6’2, and keep in mind that’s the MOST I’d ever weighed, not the least. I’d sometimes drop down five pounds. (Ironically, that would often be when I’d try to build muscle, since I’d cut out junk food and I’d add in exercise – fewer calories consumed and more burned.)

I know what you mean about feeling like the very first thing people think when they see you is “oh gosh he’s thin”. That was the first impression that I was worried I gave off as well, and, whether it was true or not, it caused me a lot of grief.

You can definitely build muscle and gain weight. I like the saying that the better your plan the better your genetics seem. These days people are often surprised to hear that I used to weigh a max of 130 pounds, and often think that I’m just genetically more muscular or whatnot. That’s more than I ever hoped for, and it’s something that you could achieve is well.

You’ll find that your genetics won’t hold you back, it’ll be having a good plan / sticking to a good plan that decides whether you succeed or not. Even if you’ve got the most appalling genetics out there you’ll still be able to build fearsome amounts of muscle. Maybe not as much as a natural pro-bodybuilder, but hell you’d likely even be able to become “too” muscular if you really wanted ahaha – that point where women are thinking “well he’s cute but he’s a little TOO big”.

Given that you don’t even want to be huge, I don’t anticipate any kind of genetic muscular potential limitation at all :)

As for how to handle the nutrition side of things … well we pretty much wrote an entire book on it. That’s a bit beyond the scope of what I can answer in a comment. But, there are couple articles that might really help!

Check these out:
Ectomorph Appetite and Metabolism
On what kinds of foods / diets us ectomorphs do best with.

I hope that helps!

Joel

Great site, guys! I have a couple of questions. I would consider myself an ectomorph because I have a very skinny bone structure and narrow shoulders. I lost a lot of weight quickly a few years ago, going from 182 lbs. to 135 in about 5 months by running A LOT and eating LITTLE. Boy was that a mistatke, as I lost a ton of muscle along with the fat. I’ve been weight training for about 6 months and I’m up to 145. My lifts are slowly going up, but it appears that a lot of the weight I’m gaining is going to my chin and my belly! I’m lifting heavy weights for low reps, and I’m not doing any cardio currently. Do you think the weight gain could favor muscle more as opposed to fat if I change my macros, or am I just consuming too many calories in general?? Thanks in advance for any tips.

Shane Duquette

Hey Joel, good question.

Yes. I think you could get a much more favourable ratio of muscle to fat as you gain weight. It’s harder for some people than others, but training and eating cleverly really does work wonders. The cleverer you are, the better your genetics seem ;)

As for what the cause is, oh boy – I really have no idea.

A better training program could do it, a smaller caloric surplus could as well, a better macro breakdown. Plenty of strategies out there, but those three would definitely be a good place to look first. (Some people who are more prone to fat gain do better with a bit of cardio, too.) It’s really hard to say with any kind of certainty, since I don’t really know what your plan’s all about.

I hope that helps!

Joel

Thanks for the help! I guess like most things in life that are worth having, it takes a lot of experimentation and dedication . . . .no quick / easy fixes! I’ll explore the three areas you have identified and keep working hard!!

clem

Hi Shane,

Concerning the 0,8g per pound of bodyweight
(“0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day—and that’s already playing it safe. Beyond that amount it hasn’t been proven that more protein results in any more muscle growth whatsoever. (study)”)

The abstract of the study you link says it’s 0,8 per KG of weight. Which is quite a difference. Just wanted to point that out :)

Thanks for your site !

Shane Duquette

Oh man you scared me. I thought I’d misread the study for a moment, and I wrote that post long ago enough I couldn’t recall the details right off the cuff.

The 0.8g per kilo would indeed be muuuuch lower, but that was the LOW end tested, not the optimal amount found:

“Based on laboratory measures, daily protein requirements are increased by perhaps as much as 100% vs. recommendations for sedentary individuals (1.6-1.8 vs. 0.8 g/kg). Yet even these intakes are much less than those reported by most athletes.”

Just to be sure I went out and dug through all the studies I could find on the topic again, and it paid off! I rounded out the references with a few more sources, and luckily they all seem to indicate similar recommendations – something like 0.7-0.8 grams of protein per pound bodyweight being the optimal amount for building muscle.

I also went in and updated the post-workout part with some very significant new studies that came out in the past few months :)

Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

clem

Sorry for the scare. I get it now.
I got confused because here in Europe/France the Dietary Reference Value for proteins is 0,83g per kg of bodyweight per day (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/fr/efsajournal/pub/2557.htm / http://www.efsa.europa.eu/fr/efsajournal/doc/2557.pdf). And strangely enough the recommendations for building muscles in your post is 0,8 per pound. So I though there was a confusion somewhere. But there isn’t. It’s just that the 0,8 figure is used as a recommendation for two different thing (yet both protein related).

Thanks for the clarification !

Shane Duquette

Exactly :)

One is a recommendation for a regular person seeking general health, and one is a recommendation for active people seeking improved performance, more muscle mass, lower body fat, etc. (This would still be optimal for health, but it’s more than you would need just from a health perspective.)

JC

Actually vegetarians are at 0 disadvantage as dairy protein is a higher quality than chicken, and is around the same quality as pork/tuna. Eggs are also ridiculously high in protein. Please don’t be ignorant.

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